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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 9/18/17 McCain and ACA repeal

Guests: Ron Klain, Nick Akerman, Mieke Eoyang, Kurt Andersen

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: September 18, 2017 Guest: Ron Klain, Nick Akerman, Mieke Eoyang, Kurt Andersen

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Holds up, that means there could be -- earlier this year. If this reporting holds up, that means there could be tape of whatever Paul Manafort and Donald Trump talked about while again, Manafort was again reportedly under surveillance because of his contacts with suspected Russian operatives.

Just Monday night. We've also learned tonight that Donald Trump Jr. and Kellyanne Conway have now turned down the Secret Service protection they've been enjoying for months.

What does that mean? I have no idea. None at all. That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it's time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O'Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Rachel, it seems like someone doesn't want the Secret Service following them around everywhere they go. Can you -- I don't know.

MADDOW: Oh, you know, I have to imagine that there's all sorts of innocent reasons why you would want more privacy than a Secret Service detail would afford you.

It's also weird that the two of them are both making that decision on the same night.

O'DONNELL: And Rachel, I just need to warn you of something, it's important, you should know this, and I feel I should have told you before now, but --


O'DONNELL: I am wearing a wire. And I know that some people in the work place now worry about colleagues wearing a wire when talking to them.

My wire is right here, it's on my lapel, I want to be completely opened about --

MADDOW: Mine too.


O'DONNELL: Completely open about that because Rachel, imagine like working in a work place where you're worried that your colleagues are wearing a wire and maybe, you know, investigators are listening to what you're saying.

MADDOW: When your colleagues start saying we're going to have -- start to have shirtless staff meetings now, that's when you really have to worry about this --


O'DONNELL: No, my wire is right there, Rachel, just you are warned, OK?

MADDOW: Roger that.

O'DONNELL: Thank you Rachel --

MADDOW: Bye, Lawrence.

O'DONN0ELL: This is more consistent with you'd you go after an organized crime syndicate. So says a former federal prosecutor and a "New York Times" breaking news report tonight that prosecutors told Paul Manafort they plan to indict him.

It was not a threat. It was a plan to indict him. That was after the FBI raid in July on Paul Manafort's home in Virginia, the prosecutors told him, that's when they told him he would be indicted.

No uncertain terms, that raid could have only been allowed by a federal judge if Mueller's team presented probable cause that a crime had been committed.

That's what was necessary for that search warrant and the unannounced entry into the home could only be authorized if the prosecutors convinced the federal judge that Paul Manafort would probably destroy evidence if he got a chance to do that.

"Cnn" is reporting tonight that Paul Manafort has been investigated off and on by the FBI going as far back as 2014 over the way he conducted business in Ukraine with the Putin-friendly regime there.

That report says that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped, including as part of the investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But according to the reports sources, the FBI did not listen in to Paul -- what Paul Manafort's phone calls during the June 2016 period when that meeting occurred in Trump Tower -- that included Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, a Russian lawyer and a few other Russians in that room.

Who arrived there promising what they were calling dirt on Hillary Clinton. Joining us now, Mieke Eoyang; a former House Intelligence Committee staff member.

Also with us, Nick Akerman; a former Watergate special prosecutor, and Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And Ron, I wanted to get your reaction to these latest breaking news reports about the conduct of this investigation and how the procedures that we're seeing here are what you would expect in an investigation of organized crime.

And also this possibility that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped by the FBI going as far back as 2014.

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Yes, Lawrence, I mean, I think that what we're seeing here is I said many times on the show that it's hard to understand the conduct of the people around Donald Trump unless they're really guilty.

And what you are seeing here is increasing evidence that Paul Manafort committed federal crimes. They would not have been able to get that wiretap without some suspicion that he was a foreign agent and that's why the FBI got the renewed wiretap in 2016.

And while the news tonight is about Manafort, the real consequence is about President Trump because the Trump defense has been first, there was really nothing here.

And the fact that we now know there's a pending and potential indictment against Manafort means there's something here that -- oh, Trump never talked to Manafort after he left the campaign.

Who was Manafort? We don't even know Manafort anymore. And he was talking to him all the way into 2017? You know, and the fact that the FBI renewed that wiretap after the Trump Tower meeting means the idea that that meeting was a nothing burger is highly suspicious.

O'DONNELL: Nick, this characterization of the -- of the prosecution as using the techniques you used going after organized crime. As a -- as a former Watergate prosecutor, how would you characterize it?

NICK AKERMAN, LAWYER: I think these are the techniques you use after -- going after an organized crime ring. I used to do that as an assistant U.S. Attorney, I used to prosecute organized crime.

I used to get search warrants, I used to get wiretaps. This is exactly --

O'DONNELL: But you told us I believe in Watergate, the whole investigation, no search warrants.

AKERMAN: There are no search warrants --

O'DONNELL: And I assume now no wiretaps in the --

AKERMAN: No wiretaps. And in fact, nobody wore a wire. I mean --


AKERMAN: We were so sensitive to that because the whole Watergate scandal started out of a bugging incident at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

So we were very sensitive about actually doing certain things. I would say we really erred on the side of being conservative.

But don't forget, one of the things that we had that was really helpful were those White House tapes.

O'DONNELL: Well, it turns out Nixon was doing his own wiretapping of himself in effect in the Oval Office with the tapes.

AKERMAN: Which is very helpful.

O'DONNELL: Yes, Mieke Eoyang, in your experience in congressional investigations, you don't have these kinds of tools like search warrants, wiretaps, those aren't available to you.

What do you make of what you're reading about the details and the way the special prosecutor is proceeding and how does that affect the way the committees are proceeding in their investigations.

And when they read about these tactics, does that make them think, maybe we should let the special prosecutor go and just hang back a bit?

MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS, THIRD WAY: So they've already had meetings at the special prosecutor's office to try and deconflict the two investigations.

You see the members of Congress on a slow but steady path of calling their witnesses, and it may be that they have coordinated to try and give Mueller time with this very aggressive strategy to get out ahead.

Mueller does have tools at his disposal that congressional investigators don't have, but they may go back and look at all of his investigative records when they put together their reports later.

O'DONNELL: And Ron, this -- the report tonight about the wiretaps indicates that the wiretaps covered a period where Paul Manafort was talking to Donald Trump including during the presidency when his lawyer -- Donald Trump's lawyers were telling him not to talk to Paul Manafort.

Eventually, apparently, the Trump lawyers prevailed on getting Donald Trump to stop talking to Paul Manafort, but as Rachel already said in the last hour, Donald Trump might show up on these wiretaps.

KLAIN: Donald Trump might indeed be the first president ever to show up on a wiretap like this. That would be a dubious, historical precedent.

But I think it's actually even more important than that because Paul Manafort was a campaign chairman who was fired, and wasn't supposedly working on the Trump campaign.

So what is Donald Trump doing, talking to him after the campaign is over? What can possibly be the subject of that conversation?

Can't be campaign strategy. Can't be campaign tactics. The campaign is over. So if he's still talking to Paul Manafort in November, December, January, maybe even longer, he clearly is talking about this investigation, what Paul Manafort knows, what he's told the investigators.

And the fact that Donald Trump is so interested in that, that's a very important fact.

O'DONNELL: Nick Akerman, there's a striking moment in these reports, and that is the after the raid of Paul Manafort's home when prosecutors unnamed, we're not sure exactly who -- tell Paul Manafort, we plan to indict you.


O'DONNELL: That is a very unusual move by prosecutors. It's not a common interaction between the prosecutors and someone who they plan to indict.

What is that about? When does a prosecutor decide, I am going to tell this guy, we plan to indict him?

AKERMAN: You decide to tell somebody that when you want that person to turn and testify against other people, that is not good news for Donald Trump, for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner or anybody else who was president at that June 9th meeting at Trump Tower.

They have their sights on Paul Manafort, they are trying to work their way up through other people. They view him as somebody who is knowledgeable about everything that went on.

He is a key person and they're telling him that because they want to give him an opportunity to come in and bare his soul and cooperate and get a deal so he doesn't have to spend a lot of time in federal prison.

O'DONNELL: Mieke, what does a leak like this do to the congressional investigators? When they -- when they read this report saying that the prosecutors have said to Paul Manafort, we plan to indict you.

Does that make them more reluctant to try to get Paul Manafort's testimony?

EOYANG: Not necessarily, but it does suggest that Manafort's testimony may be less valuable. If he knows he is going to be indicted, he may assert the fifth and not actually provide congressional investigators with substantive testimony about what he is doing.

You asked Ron earlier what he could have been talking to Trump about, and if you remember, Paul Manafort is deeply connected to these Russian oligarchs, some of them who are Ukrainians, some of whom are in Russia.

And so he may have been discussing business dealings and their real questions about whether or not he was offering quid pro quo to the Trump organization. Very interested in doing business in Russia during this time period.

O'DONNELL: And Ron, there's so much speculation about what they could be talking about. But you make the point, it's so much more interesting that they're talking during the presidency because there's no working relationship there.

There's not supposed to be, and what you could have in those kinds of conversations are Donald Trump trying to find ways to say to Paul Manafort, you know, just please, you know, kind of help me out here.

Don't give the prosecutors anything that can help them get me.

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, obviously, Trump could have been promising him a pardon like he promised -- like he gave Joe Arpaio.

He could be promising him efforts to help, Manafort could be urging Trump to fire Comey early on in this. We -- you know, we just don't know.

What we do know is that one of the real firewalls that Trump tried to build between himself and this investigation, that they've been building over the past several months.

They are like Manafort may have been bad, but we got rid of him and that he was no longer part of our world.

That firewall has been blown wide open tonight. And the fact that Manafort was in touch with the president through the rest of the campaign through the transition into the presidency means that Donald Trump had a relationship with Paul Manafort that went beyond him counting delegates at the Republican National Convention.

O'DONNELL: And Nick, if on a wiretap you have the president reminding Paul Manafort that he is the pardoner-in-chief, where does the special prosecutor go with that?

AKERMAN: Oh, that is an obstruction of justice. I mean, if what he's suggesting to Paul Manafort is don't worry, I've got your back, I'm going to pardon you --

O'DONNELL: But I mean, there are ways of saying things that aren't quite so explicit. And it's a question of, you know, might Donald Trump find that way of saying that it isn't quite as explicit?

AKERMAN: Well, there's always the wink and the nod --


AKERMAN: But that's hard to do over the telephone --

O'DONNELL: It is hard to do on the phone, yes --

AKERMAN: Makes it tough --


AKERMAN: And Paul Manafort also has the added problem that he's probably right in the sights of the New York Attorney General who is also investigating him for money laundering and other crimes that some of which are more serious than the federal crimes.

I mean, between the two, I'd rather spend my time in federal prison than have to go to Rikers Island.

O'DONNELL: And Mieke, the -- this revelation tonight about Paul Manafort and wiretaps -- let's go back to the point where Paul Manafort is hired to work on this campaign.

A presidential candidate is hiring someone who is under FBI investigation when he hires him to go to work on this campaign.

EOYANG: That's right. You're seeing Paul Manafort who is at the fringes of politics come into this campaign at a very high level.

A lot of other people were taking a pass on Donald Trump because they didn't think that he was really a serious candidate.

Paul Manafort had had a lot of political experience again with these Russians and Ukrainians. And so when you're talking about people who would know about how to broker connections between Vladimir Putin and the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort is the perfect candidate for that.

O'DONNELL: Mieke Eoyang and Nick Akerman, thank you both for joining us tonight. Ron, we're going to talk to you in another segment coming up.

And up next, we now have a tie, it's an actual tie now in Washington for the two worst lawyers in Washington.

And they both work for Donald Trump. And they both talk very loudly at Washington restaurants about their client Donald Trump and the trouble that he's involved in right now.

And anyone can hear him including "New York Times" reporters, we're going to have that story. Also, a Republican senator who promised to use the Jimmy Kimmel test for health care legislation so that any child in America could get the life-saving surgery that Jimmy Kimmel's new born baby got this year, that same senator has introduced a bill and is pushing a bill now in the Senate in a kind of panic last-ditch push that violates the Jimmy Kimmel test.

And Jimmy Kimmel has noticed.


O'DONNELL: It's always worth remembering that Donald Trump could not get his first choice of lawyers to defend him in the special prosecutor's investigation.

He was turned down by the best Washington law firms because of his reputation for failing to pay his bills and his recurring public demonstrations of being a ridiculous client for a good lawyer to deal with in any way.

A client who actually attacked a federal judge in the Trump University fraud case which Donald Trump then went on to lose to the tune of $25 million.

And so Donald Trump is stuck with nothing close to his first choice of lawyers in what is the most important moment of his lifetime of legal troubles.

Two of those lawyers proved their fundamental incompetence as lawyers by sitting in a Washington restaurant last week, talking loudly enough for a well-known New York Times" reporter at a nearby table to listen in.

The "New York Times" Ken Vogel, a frequent guest on this program and many other cable news programs tweeted this picture of the two lawyers doing the worst possible job they could for their client at lunch, talking about the investigation publicly.

And you are speaking publicly whenever you are speaking in such a way that other people can hear you, and real lawyers know that.

John Dowd who is being paid as Donald Trump's private outside lawyer has an obligation to maintain attorney-client privilege with Donald Trump.

He violated that obligation at lunch by being overheard by "New York Times" reporter Ken Vogel.

Ty Cobb, the other lawyer at the table who is now tied with John Dowd for the title of worst lawyer in Washington, talked loudly about his disagreements with Chief White House counsel Don McGahn about turning over documents to the special prosecutor.

He complained about other lawyers in the White House Counsel's office. I've got some reservations about one of them.

I think he is like a McGahn spy. When Ken Vogel and Peter Baker contacted the White House and the lawyers involved in that discussion before printing their article about that discussion, John Dowd told this lie to the "New York Times" about the conversation that Ken Vogel had actually heard.

He said, "nothing we said reflected adversely upon Don McGahn." Joining us now, Kurt Andersen; the author of the new book "Fantasy Land: How America Went Haywire", and Ron Klain is back with us.

And Kurt, right at the end of this article, you have Don McGahn saying, that stuff you heard us say, we did not say.

KURT ANDERSEN, AUTHOR: Well, it's the old joke. Don't believe your lying eyes.


ANDERSEN: Here was the -- here was a "New York Times" reporter several feet away taking their picture and recording notes on his iPhone as they spoke.

And there it is -- and by asserting the opposite that -- oh no, nothing bad was said about the White House Council Don McGahn --

O'DONNELL: We didn't say he has spies.

ANDERSEN: Yes, it's extraordinary. And by the way, these -- I do say these loud, publicly-speaking lawyers were the lawyers brought in to replace the bad lawyers --

O'DONNELL: Right --

ANDERSEN: To professionalize --

O'DONNELL: Right --

ANDERSEN: The Trump legal team. It's extraordinary -- and by the way, the thing that -- I only realized after I read the initial story is the steakhouse is in the Trump International Hotel as well.

The BLT steak is in the Trump International Hotel which as everything becomes essentially a bad TV show in this administration, that's a thing that a studio executive would say, no, that's just too on the nose that it's in the president's own --

O'DONNELL: Right --

ANDERSEN: Restaurant.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Ken Vogel said about John Kelly's reaction to this.


KEN VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: John Kelly; the chief of staff and Don McGahn; the White House counsel were incredibly displeased -- to put it mildly, they called Ty Cobb in on Friday and basically read him the Riot Act by saying, you can't be talking about this incredibly sensitive information in such an obviously public context.

The concern here being not just potentially tipping their hand through the press to what their strategy is and tipping their hand to Mueller.

But also a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.


O'DONNELL: Ron Klain, your reaction.

KLAIN: Well, you know, I'm glad they had this at the BLT steakhouse because BLT must stand for bad lawyers for Trump.


You know, I think that it's an incredible thing. But, you know, one thing that's in that story, that story by Vogel and Baker is the fact that one of these complaints was that Don McGahn has documents in a safe in the White House that he will not show to Donald Trump's lawyers.

And what I can tell you about that, Lawrence, is those documents in a safe cannot be documents that are good for Donald Trump.

Because if they were, his lawyers would have seen them. So, you know, this obviously was a horrible act of lawyering by these two people.

But really it begs the question of what is here and what's yet to come out, and gives a road map for Bob Mueller for the documents he most want to see.

O'DONNELL: Kurt, you're one of New York journalists who has been studying Donald Trump for decades. He's not a good sleeper, we know that.

He's an insomniac, there's something that keeps him awake at night. And now he's got this. Now he's got his two lawyers sitting there being overheard, even Donald Trump knows this is utterly buffoonish behavior.

ANDERSEN: Overheard, disagreeing with each other, and one of them loudly disagreeing with his White House counsel Don McGahn who by the way may be criminally culpable himself.

So -- and has lawyered up as a result. So yes, at this point, Trump who until recently, his first group of lawyers who were dismissed were lawyers who had no experience whatsoever in this kind of Washington criminal law.

He thought he'd replaced them with the guys who know this score and this is what they do. This mind boggling version of publicly sharing their client's most important legal negotiations and questions. It's extraordinary.

O'DONNELL: Ron, you used to work in the Justice Department, can you tip us off as to where the Justice Department's lawyers go to lunch so that we can overhear the special prosecutors and Robert Mueller fighting among each other about how they're handling the prosecution, the investigation --


O'DONNELL: Of Donald Trump?

ANDERSEN: Yes, they eat at their desks, Lawrence --

O'DONNELL: Is that going to happen? --

ANDERSEN: They eat at their desks --

O'DONNELL: Yes, that's right --

ANDERSEN: That's the key, Lawrence, they eat at their desks.

O'DONNELL: Yes, I mean, if you just think about it and say, OK, let's shift this over to the other side and the impossibility of anyone ever overhearing Robert Mueller or any of the lawyers working in on that side of the case.

KLAIN: It seems profoundly unlikely. Look, people are human, I'm sure mistakes happen, perhaps, but not like this, not in public, not actually at an outdoor table where you're walking by on the sidewalk could have heard it, and just not in this way.

And you could see really the pressure this is bringing on the White House, the part of that piece you alluded to at the outset of the program about people in the White House so worried that their colleagues are wearing wires to White House meetings.

Now, I've worked in the White House, Lawrence, it's a hard place to work under the best of circumstances. If you think your colleagues are wired, that's got to be wreaking just havoc on the president and his team.

O'DONNELL: And then, Kurt, it's as good as them being wired in the sense that there's one there who trusts another nor should anyone in that building trust anyone else in that building based on what we've seen in terms of the way they leak --


ANDERSEN: Well, exactly, whether they're wearing wires or not, I -- you have to believe that every one of them is making contemporaneous notes every night about what he has said to me or she said to him.

That has to be case, now -- no, that's not as good as evidence in a trial or a criminal proceeding as tape recordings.

But they have to believe that's there and --

But they have to believe that's there and who can they trust? I guess Ivanka and Jared trust each other, and that may be the extent of the implicit trust in the White House.

O'DONNELL: And Ron, and in your career in Washington, working in the Senate, working in the Justice Department, working in the White House.

When you go to a restaurant with someone who you might be discussing anything sensitive, you're very careful about what table that is, about how far away from other people you are, and if you're too close, you just don't talk about it.

This just doesn't happen. We don't have another one of these stories. About the times so and so was overheard in the Washington restaurant because everybody knows you don't do this.

KLAIN: Yes, I mean, again, people are human, they make mistakes, but this is a colossal mistake. And I think the scope and nature of this really stands out.

And the fact that it was about not just sensitive or kind of politically sensitive information, but attorney-client information really makes it very different.

And of course, the fact that they were caught lying about it afterwards as opposed to just kind of coughing it up and admitting it only adds to that.

And so, this is fiasco of a fiasco of a fiasco, but it illustrates just how bad things are in the Trump White House right now.

O'DONNELL: Ron Klain and Kurt Andersen, thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, are Senate Republicans really going to try to push their latest version of repealing and replacing Obamacare?

And if they do, what will John McCain do this time? His best friend is pushing that bill. And Donald Trump used the eve of his first U.N. speech to taunt North Korea on Twitter.

But is North Korea actually afraid of Donald Trump? Do they understand Donald Trump? Do they understand his tweets?

An American reporter who's just returned from North Korea with a stunning report will join us.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We have a restaurant correction to make on our last segment. We were talking about BLT Steak in Washington, D.C. That's where Donald Trump's lawyers can be overheard talking about the case. So if you want to hear Donald Trump's lawyers talking about the case, go to BLT Steak which is not in the Trump Hotel in Washington.

There is another BLT named restaurant in the Trump Hotel in Washington. If you want to hear the Trump lawyers talking about the Trump case, you go to BLT Steak and apparently you sit outside because they do it right outside on the sidewalk. You can just walk by. You don't have to pay for lunch. You can just overhear them as you're walking by so, BLT Steak not in the Trump Hotel.

And now, to the latest on healthcare, the republican healthcare bill in the senate and Jimmy Kimmel.


JIMMY KIMMEL, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't be matter how much money you make. I think that's something now whether you're a republican or democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do. I saw a lot of families there and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life.

It just shouldn't happen. Not here. So -


O'DONNELL: After Jimmy Kimmel told that powerful story of how doctors at children's hospital in Los Angeles performed life saving surgery saving surgery on his newborn so. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana proposed what he call - he thought of this term, the Jimmy Kimmel test for healthcare legislation. Senator Cassidy's Jimmy Kimmel test is would any child born with the same heart diseases is Jimmy Kimmel son be able to get everything he or she would need in the first year of life even if it cost more than a certain amount of money?

Senator Cassidy was a guest on the show after Jimmy Kimmel's emotional monologue.


BILL CASSIDY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Lowering premiums with coverage passing the Jimmy Kimmel test, if we do that, we get an American plan. Not democrat, not a republican, and American plan and that's where we need to be.

KIMMELL: Senator the Jimmy Kimmel test I think should be no family should be denied medical care emergency or otherwise because they can't afford it. Can that be the Jimmy Kimmel test? As simple as that? Is that oversimplifying it?

CASSIDY: Hey man, you're on the right track. And if that's as close as we get, that works great in government.


O'DONNELL: And that was a very slippery politician's answer that Jimmy Kimmel's audience was hearing there. He did not actually agree with Jimmy Kimmel's version of the Kimmel test. Instead, he simply said that Jimmy Kimmel's was on the right track and now that very same Senator Cassidy is pushing a healthcare bill that will repeal and replace Obamacare and would completely fail the Jimmy Kimmel test.

Millions upon millions of people would lose health care under the Cassidy bill that is being co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham. But we don't know exactly how many millions because the congressional budget office has not even scored the bill yet but republicans are still ready to vote for it. Senator John McCain whose best friend in the senate is Lindsey Graham cast the deciding no vote the last time the republicans tried to pass a healthcare bill in the senate.

Here's what John McCin told the reporters about the Graham/Cassidy bill. I am not supportive of the bill yet. When asked what he needs to be able to support the bill, John McCain said, among other things, the regular order, lots of things. Regular order means having hearings on the bill. In the house and in the senate and then having committee votes on the bill in the house and in the senate.

And then voting on the bill on the senate floor where it is open to amendment by any senator. That process normally takes several months at least. And there are only 12 days left for the senate republicans to pass a healthcare bill in the senate under the procedural protection of the rule called reconciliation where the bill needs only 51 votes to pass. Joining us now, Andy Slavitt the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services from 2015 to 2017.

Also joining us Jennifer Reuben, an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and, Jennifer, you wrote about this Cassidy/Graham bill today for "The Washington Post" and Jimmy Kimmel tweeted your article to his 10 million followers and you make the point very clearly in this article that the Cassidy bill fails the Kimmel test.

JENNIFER REUBEN, OPINION WRITER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: That's right. One of the things it does, for example, is put a per capita caps the Medicaid for every state. So that people who are enjoying Medicaid benefits won't enjoy Medicaid benefits in the future. We are not just talking about rolling back the extension of Medicaid. We are talking about a worst cut for Medicaid.

We are talking about giving states the right to redefine what the minimum benefits are. Maybe they're going to define minimum benefits as excluding birth defects. They're not going to define it as not including heart defects and which was one of the things that - which was the defect that Jimmy Kimmel's son was born with. They also have the ability under the Cassidy/Graham bill to decide that preexisting conditions maybe don't have to be covered completely.

So, in the guise of sending it back to the states and the guise of federalism, it's really the most draconian of all versions and you are right. They're trying to rush this through in the dead of night. I would say one thing, however. They really don't have 12 days because pardon the pun, thank goodness we have the Jewish holidays so it will be out on Thursday and Friday. And then, by next Friday they better be out by sun down.

So they have less than 12 days and I would suggest that if democrats are concerned about this that they slow things down. Make people read the bill. Make people discuss it. Find out what's in it.

O'DONNELL: And, Andy Slavitt, one thing that the democrats are demanding is a full CBO score of this bill. Chairman Orrin Hatch the senate finance committee is scheduling a hearing on the bill next week and that seems to be the finance committee's nod to John McCain's demand for regular order but that's not regular order for a bill like this. The senate finance committee had 24 hearings as I recall when we were considering the Clinton Healthcare Bill then almost as many hearings and meetings at least over the Obamacare.

ANDY SLAVITT, FMR ACTING ADMINISTRATOR OF THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID: Well, this has all the features of a rush job. So the republicans are now prepared to bring this bill to the floor without a full CBO score. The CBO said today, they will not be able to score the bill in time. The timeframe that - that Jennifer just laid out. We also know that this hearing you're talking about is a rush together kind of hearing, a show hearing, hoping that that can get McCain to check the box.

And then third we just heard word tonight, it's not yet been reported that the great work of Lamar Alexander has been doing with Patty Murray, they try to come to a bipartisan bill that the republican leadership has put a stop to that bill to apply pressure for people to say, you've got to vote for this cassidy bill or you're not going to have anything at all. So this is a - this is more rush job of a very harmful bill.

O'DONNELL: And, Jennifer, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain stopped the last republican bill. Based on what they said about the last republican bill and what was in it and why they were voting against it in terms of content of the bill and we know Senator McCain said a lot about the procedure but the content of the bill, how is this different from the content of what they voted against before?

REUBEN: It's worse. They were concerned about Medicaid cuts, they were concerned about cuts for rural healthcare, they were concerned about a lot of things and this really is worse because essentially by pushing it back to the states they can do essentially whatever they want. By the way, that might entail in blue states setting up a single payer system. So republicans could be slitting their throats. They would be sending out a bunch of experiments in single payer healthcare and probably not what they want either.

And, and Andy Slavitt would Senator McCain made the really kind of emotional first speech on the senate floor after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, it was all about the procedures of the senate, and the procedures of content. It was more of congress, it was more about that than the content of the bill and he kept talking about regular order and when I heard him say that, it sounded to me like he absolutely was going to have to vote against the bill that was in front of them because as I said regular order is a minimum of six to nine months of consideration of a bill like this before it comes to a vote.

How could he possibly vote for something like this rushed through a fake, a truly fake version of regular order if that's what they're going to pretend to do?

SLAVITT: Lawrence that's a great point. If you think about it, you're thinking about what Senator McCain's legacy will end up being if he reverses himself under something that he got universal (INAUDIBLE) for. He'll end up in situation where we will have passed the most partisan, one- sided bill by a partisan process only of course to have the democrats very likely attempt to the same thing in the next election and so on and so on and so on.

And I don't think Senator McCain wants to be responsible for that. All due respect to his friendship to Senator Graham, all due respect to his loyalty to the party, he would be setting off a wave of things long probably beyond his time in the senate that would create an atmosphere of partisanship that would be well beyond even where we sit today. He can put a stop to it.

O'DONNELL: So far Rand Paul's the only republican senator coming out against it saying it's not conservative enough. Susan Collins is saying she's concerned about the bill but not taking a position for or against it just yet. We'll going to keep covering it. Jennifer Reuben and Andy Slavitt, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

REUBEN: Thanks.

SLAVITT: Thanks Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, how does North Korea interpret Donald Trump? They are having as much trouble interpreting him as we are interpreting North Korea.


O'DONNELL: This is for the nuclear war. That's exactly what Evan Osnos was told when he was being shown the dual purposes that are built into a subway station in North Korea where everyone he talked to including a 11-year-old boy seemed to believe that nuclear war is certainly possible and survivable. North Korea has perfected its ability to absorb pain.

That's what Evan Osnos discovered in the extraordinary reporting in North Korea, the cover story of this week's New Yorker Magazine. It's North Korea's ability to absorb pain apparently makes our traditional nuclear deterrence strategies feel almost useless with North Korea.

North Korea believes that they won the Korean War. And that the United States lost the Korean War and having endured war with the United States before, some North Koreans express a certain kind of confidence about doing it again, A confidence that does include the possibility that millions of North Koreans would die in nuclear war with the United States. A few thousand would survive said a North Korean government official. A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.

A government of a country with 25 million citizens that can see some form of victory in only a few thousand of them surviving a nuclear war is a government that no American President has figured out how to negotiate with and now the united states and North Korea each have a head of state that the world struggles to understand. As Kim Jong-Un's statements and Donald Trump's tweets seem to be edging ever closer to nuclear war. Evan will join us next with the answer that he got to this question when he asked it in North Korea. If your country would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange, why are you really entertaining the idea? He got that answer, he got an answer to the question in North Korea and it will surprise you. Evan Osnos joins us with that answer next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I had the long conversation with President Xi of China. We discussed trade and we also discussed a place called North Korea. Let's see what happens. I think we're making great progress.


O'DONNELL: That was the President speaking tonight in New York City. Tomorrow he will speak to the United Nations general assembly for the first time and the Whitehouse says that the threat from North Korea will be the focus of his address. Joining us now Evan Osnos, staff writer at the New Yorker. He wrote the recent cover story, the risk of nuclear war with North Korea. and, Evan, I wanted to talk about North Korea's attempts now to interpret the President of the United States, which has become more difficult than it ever has in the past, including, for example, this Tweet that the President tweeted yesterday.

He said, I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night, asked him how rocket man is doing. long gas lines forming in North Korea. too bad, exclamation point. And as you report, the North Korean officials read these right away, including some officials who are here in New York City. But they struggle to figure out what they mean.

EVAN OSNOS, JOURNALIST: Yeah, in many ways the North Koreans ask the same questions about Donald Trump that we ask about Kim Jong-Un. They asked me, is he, as they put it, rational, or is he smart? They said they're struggling to answer that question. You know, in some ways we know how we look at this confrontation.

This feels to us as it North Korea is taking these inexplicable steps toward greater and greater confrontation with the United States. But from the north korean perspective, they say they are encountering a U.S. President than they have dealt with before. He's using language like they've never heard.

And they feel as if taking about things that they never expected like preventive war. And as they said to me when I was in North Korea in august, the United States is not the only country that can launch preventive war.

O'DONNELL: And one of the interpretations that comes out very clearly in your piece is they are interpreting Donald Trump to intentionally be marching toward war.

OSNOS: Yeah, they take him at his word. You know, they have listened to his statements. They've read his Tweets very closely. They have said to me that -- and others that they believe that they're not going to suffer the same fate that befell Saddam Hussein and mow Muammar Gaddafi.

Those of course were two leaders who were developing nuclear weapons and gave them up. And so when they hear Donald Trump say the only solution to this crisis is to give up their nuclear weapons, they say that is putting us on a path towards war.

And I think the other piece that is important to remember is the way they regard themselves is they see themselves as having suffered and survived terrible things in their history, the Korean War, the famine in the 19090s. As a government official said to me, if we had to do it again we would do it a third time and we would survive.

O'DONNELL: Yes, they say to you they have already survived things that they consider as bad as nuclear war. You asked this question that you report in your piece. If your country would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange, why are you really entertaining the idea? And what answer did you get?

OSNOS: They said, because we have no other choice. In this case, they really feel as if they are on track towards survival. They feel that they're facing an existential threat from the United States. And I this is where we're at a crucial moment right now because remember we've been dealing with North Korea one form or another since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

But suddenly we have found ourselves in this very confrontational moment. And that's partly because they have radically escalated the pace of their nuclear program and their missile program. But it's also because we have chosen to deal with them in a new way under the Trump Administration.

And I think there is a growing sense that in addition to maximum pressure, which you are seeing now with more sanctions, it's perhaps time also for maximum engagement, which is the other side of this. Looking for the opportunity to get to the negotiating table and de-escalate the confrontation.

O'DONNELL: And, Evan, it is an extraordinary journey you took to North Korea. While in the middle of all this conflict and while Donald Trump was firing off Tweets in august that people were asking you about while you were there, you visited, among other things, you visited a school. There was a moment with an 11-year-old boy when they were -- the students were told, you know, you can ask him anything. Eventually one kid decided to try asking you something. And what did this 11-year-old boy say?

OSNOS: He stood up in the front row of the classroom and he said, why is the United States trying to provoke a war with us? And why is the United States trying to prevent us from getting a nuclear weapon? The message for me was very clear, which Is North Korea gets up, North Korean population gets up every day and they are reminded, they're thinking about this all the time. They see it on bill boards on the street. They see it on television. As far as they hear they need to prepare for war with the United States and we should take steps to prevent that.

O'DONNELL: Evan Osnos, it is the cover story of this weeks New Yorker, North Korea on the brink. It is extraordinary reporting, Evan, just stunning how you got permission to travel to North Korea, everything you went through while you were there. We're going to be referring to elements of this story, I'm sure, in your reporting for weeks to come if there's so much that we didn't get to we will get to more at another time. Evan Osnos thank you for joining us.

OSNOS: Thanks Lawrence, much appreciated.

O'DONNELL: Tonight's next word is next.


O'DONNELL: President Trump will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly for the first time tomorrow, the first time in his Presidency. But possibly more importantly for the future of his presidency, and about the same time Donald Trump's long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen will be speaking to, that is to say, testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. That's tonight's Last Word. The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.


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